A recent study has reported that more than half (52%) of the consumers in the USA and Great Britain want a sustainable fashion industry. However, almost as many consumers (45%) do not know which fashion brands and retailers are committed to sustainability.
The study recommends that brands & retailers focus on the top 5 aspects for consumers when it comes to sustainable fashion in their messaging:
- Reduction of packaging volume (75 percent of consumers)
- Ensuring fair pay and good working conditions (74 per cent)
- Use of renewable and recyclable materials (73 percent)
- Producing clothes that last longer (71 percent)
- Use fewer resources such as electricity, water, materials (64 percent)
How does James&Co fare in respect of these sustainable criteria?
1. Reduction of packaging volume (75 percent of consumers)
From the start of the business, our outerwear has been packaged in non-woven bags, never in plastic.
These non-woven bags are made from a range of biodegradable fibres, often including recycled fabrics, which are bonded together on a sheet roll.
They are eco-friendly because they are bio-degradable and can be re-used.
They commonly replace plastic bags as shopping and carrier bags. But they are also utilised in a number of industries, especially where single-use and disposability are important. Hospitals is a leading example, where non-woven fabrics make surgical gowns and masks, shoe covers, wound dressings.
The challenge for James&Co relying on its biodegradable packaging as a significant environmental benefit is that warehouses and such have required the products to be additionally packaged in plastic with their required information labels attached.
Given the significance which consumers attach to the reduction of packaging, we will endeavour to find a solution with our partners in the supply chain.
2. Ensuring fair pay and good working conditions (74 per cent)
James&Co is a small family-owned company where the manufacturing of its products is out-sourced. It has always been a requirement that manufacturers comply with our Supplier Code of Conduct in order to be a supply partner. We share this widely so that retailers and consumers can have confidence in the suppliers we work with.
Another very strong reason why retailers and consumers can have trust in the James&Co commitment to fair pay and good working conditions is our recent verification is a Certified B Corporation. We have been certified as a business that meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
A component part of the criteria for verification is engagement with suppliers and distributors. Diversity of suppliers is also important for verification and we have a Supplier Diversity Policy.
In the interests of transparency, information about the James&Co B Corp certification is published in the B Corp directory.
3. Use of renewable and recyclable materials (73 percent)
The confidence for retailers and consumers in the materials we use is that all materials are eco-friendly and sustainable. We no longer use the conventional vegan leather fabric (polyurethane) which is made with plastics chemicals, having replaced it with the non-toxic innovative alternative eco leather.
The use of eco-friendly materials was also a key item for certification in our B Corp certification.
We have also introduced a Recycling Initiative to divert the plastics-based PU jackets from landfill.
4. Producing clothes that last longer (71 percent)
This criterion has 2 aspects to be considered: clothes that last longer because of top quality and clothes that last longer as a fashion item. Consumers have little to no incentive to discard a sustainable purchase for another.
In order for sustainable fashion to really gain ground, it is widely recognised that fast fashion is the antithesis of sustainable fashion. The James&Co brand is built on stylish collections of classic wardrobe staples - jackets and coats that never go out of fashion. Think blazers, biker jackets, bomber jackets, trench coats. We tailor classic styles in sustainable fabrics with contemporary details - so no eco-conscious consumer needs to sacrifice style for sustainable conscience.
5. Use fewer resources such as electricity, water, materials (64 percent)
Use of resources is a central assessment of B Corp verification. Given the current size of our business the impacts which we could report were not related to a focussed plan to reduce our usage. That will now be changing as we focus on this internally and with our partners - in order to be re-verified in 3 years time improvement will be a necessity on our environmental impact in these regards.
As we look at the 5 criteria for sustainability from the consumers' perspective, there are areas for work and improvement in our operations and our partner relationships. But given the presence of our internal policies and the very significant valuable B Corp certification, there is confidence for retailers and consumers that James&Co is indeed a sustainable brand.